Sunday, December 08, 2013

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #17

In mid-November, the idea of Trans Iowa was hatched. The year was 2004. In the ten years since then there have been many stories and memories. These posts will tell of the most prominent ones to my mind. Maybe I'll even spill the beans on some things you never knew....

The scene of my personal B Road encounter
 The year of 2008 was a pretty dismal year in terms of weather for the Mid-West and Iowa in particular. It started out with a Winter that wouldn't quit. Snow was piled high until very late into March and recon was pushed back till the last week of March for T.I.v4. There were a few odds and ends that needed attending to, and with David Pals working week days, many of my days off were spent traversing Highway 20 East to access parts of our course for that year.

On one of those trips, I took the "Dirty Blue Box", as my '90 Civic wagon was known as, and headed up to the Edgewood area to check on a few things. On my way there, I took a brief shortcut around a town to save some time. The maps showed a county road through the area, but it turned to gravel. Okay, not unusual, I thought, but the map showed pavement here. Hmm.....

So I am cruising along at about 45mph on gravel on a gray, drizzly day, when I crest a hill and.......Bam! I suddenly am out of control sliding down a B Maintenance road on saturated clay! What I am about to write here all happened within a few seconds.

Okay, my first thought was that I could NOT use the brakes. I knew instinctively that had I stuck a foot on the pedal, I would have been every which way but straight on that downhill mess and would have crashed. Wet clay is like grease, or black ice. It's treacherous! The next thing that I was aware of were two, big, deep ruts in the road. They were likely put there by a farmer's tractor, as they were narrow and so deep I don't know how a truck or car could have made them. Whatever! My main concern was to NOT drop a wheel into either rut, or I was done for. The little Civic would have been sitting on its floorpan and I would have had to been towed.......someday.....when the roads dried up! Seriously! When farmers get their tractors stuck out here in fields, they often have helicopters pull them out if it means planting or harvesting won't get done if they do not get pulled out.

Post traumatic mud syndrome
Well, the car finally came to a stop. I was in a small rut, and maybe I could get going? I tried, but the wheels were spinning! I knew that if I were to keep spinning those tires, the car would sink down far enough that all hope of getting out would be lost. I was out of the car, surveying my situation, and running out of reasonable options. So, I thought of something unreasonable! 

My predicament was such that I figured I had a one shot chance at getting out. What I needed was someone to push, while I hit the throttle gently. I just needed to clear the front wheels out of the small rut, (which actually brought the car to a halt originally), and  I figured the down hill nature of the road would help in getting me the 1/8th of a mile I had to go to the intersection and regular gravel. Trouble was, I was alone, at least a half mile away from the nearest farm, where, if anyone was home, I'd have to convince someone to walk down a gooey mud road in a light rain to push a fool out of a rut. Or......I could push it out myself! 

So, I did something unreasonable. I put the car in drive, left the drivers door wide open, and got a firm footing behind the Civic. The front wheels were slowly spinning in the mud this entire time.  I started heaving up and forward on the bumper, and the wheels up front found something to grip, and the car started moving! I kept pushing faster. Now this was a critical point in the plan. Had the car veered to one side or the other, I would have failed, but it stayed going straight due to the wonderful nature of front wheel drive vehicles. When the car was picking up enough speed that I figured I could drive it, I launched around the left side, ran up to the door, and leapt into the car. Again, if I miss, I am done for. But I landed my butt squarely in the seat!

With the door flopping and my left leg dangling precariously out of the side of the car, I gently goosed the accelerator, steered as best I could, and drove it out onto clear gravel! I was so elated that when I stopped I literally danced in the road, hooting and hollering.  Amazingly, I got the car out of that dire situation, plus it was unscathed, if not just a wee bit caked with clay.

I carried on with recon, by the skin-o-my teeth, and got home later safely. Trans Iowa v4's course was in desperate need of drying out, but as we would find out later, it would not get that chance.

Next week: The lead up to, and beginning of Trans Iowa v4.......

1 comment:


Great story Ted! I sure enjoy your blog...I have been riding gravel and dirt roads of W central Idaho for 15 years now. Stop by if ever in the area...

Chris Reino